Three hundred children, from preschool to sixth grade, squeeze into two rows of tin-walled classroom, The school is situated in the middle of corn and bean fields, just outside the city of Jos, Nigeria.
Dressed predominantly in blue and white, the children come to Faith Alive Community School, a Christian school, where the education is free. Both Muslim and Christian children attend.
On a sunny day in May, the children are singing songs about prayer and faith and practicing spelling of English words, a primary language in Nigeria. Second graders vie to be the first to identify living things – lions, plants and people – and contrast them with non-living things -- pencils, windows, chairs and books.
The students are among the poorest and most vulnerable in the Hwol-Yarje community, including about 20 orphans. Families in the community take care of the orphans through an initiative put in place by Faith Alive Foundation, the same group that runs the school.
An MCC partner since 2003, Faith Alive is best known for its hospital and clinic in Jos that offers free health care to people living in poverty. About 10 percent of the clinic’s patients have HIV.
Although treatment for HIV is much more effective today than it used to be, even five years ago, children still lose parents to this disease and other illnesses. Violence in the city of Jos, most pronounced between 2001 and 2011, also caused children to become orphans.
MCC photo/Matthew Lester
Dr. Christian Isichei, founder and director of Faith Alive, a holistic health care foundation, sees the needs of children and families at the clinic and hospital, where he treats patients every day. He believes patients need more than healthcare to get well.
“Disease leads to poverty. Poverty leads to disease,” he says. “You have to break the cycle. If you empower somebody, you are breaking poverty.”
To break the hold of poverty, Faith Alive offers patients vocational and biblical discipleship training, emergency food and lodging, family support and education.
For years, Faith Alive used funds from MCC’s former Global Family education program to pay tuition for children who couldn’t afford to go to school. However, Isichei realized Faith Alive could educate more students with less MCC funding by building and staffing its own school.
MCC photo/Matthew Lester
Isichei also figured out that Faith Alive could provide education for orphans he knew from the clinic by finding guardians for them near the school. Faith Alive uses MCC funding to train the guardians, he said.
To further support the orphans, most of the staff at Faith Alive hospital and clinic mentor an orphan. Each Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., orphans come to Faith Alive for computer or music lessons for an hour followed by two hours of playtime. Four times a year, Faith Alive hosts holiday parties, using MCC funds.
“They come to share a taste of life,” Isichei said.